The River in Colorado Where Two People Have Died in Nine Days

The location where the latest fatality took place is near where two people drowned in 2014.
The location where the latest fatality took place is near where two people drowned in 2014. Fox31 file photo
Update: The man who died on the Poudre River on June 27 has been identified as William McHarg. The cause of death was sudden cardiac death/asphyxia by drowning. Continue for our previous coverage.

Update below: The death yesterday, June 27, of an as-yet-unidentified man during a commercial rafting trip was the second to take place on the Poudre River over a nine-day span. Moreover, the part of the river near where the man died took two lives in 2014 during another especially dangerous period for the Poudre.

Our June 5, 2014 post "Woman's Drowning Death in Poudre River Third since Memorial Day" noted that on May 26 of that year, Cristopher Brian Alania-Canto, a fourteen-year-old from Peru, fell into the river near the Ouzel campground and picnic area of Poudre Canyon. The teen's uncle, 38-year-old Jose Antonio Terrel-Pena jumped in and tried to rescue him. Family members said he managed to reach the boy but then slipped and was knocked unconscious. Terrel-Pena was pulled from the water near the scene but later died at an area hospital. Alania-Canto's body was found later that day, about eight miles downstream.

Then, on June 4 of that year, according to the Larimer County Sheriff's Office, rescuers were called to the 13000 block of the Poudre Canyon, west of Fort Collins and approximately fourteen miles west of Ted's Place, on a report of an overturned raft. Four people had been in the vessel, and while three managed to reach safety, a 26-year-old woman later identified as Rebecca Knight had been swept away.

Larimer County Emergency Services and the Larimer County Dive Rescue Team were dispatched to assist and found the woman just over half an hour after she fell overboard. She was transported to an area hospital, where she was pronounced dead.

Deaths in the Poudre don't always occur with such frequency. An analysis by the Fort Collins Coloradoan counts twenty fatalities over a twenty-year period. But as in 2014, two deadly incidents have now happened in close proximity to each other.

click to enlarge Maximillian Lopez died tubing the Poudre on June 18. - CBS4 VIA YOUTUBE
Maximillian Lopez died tubing the Poudre on June 18.
CBS4 via YouTube
On June 18, Maximillian Lopez, an eighteen-year-old from Washington state, died while tubing the Poudre in an area identified by the indispensable website as "Below Filter Plant to Picnic Rock Access." The site's description of the stretch doesn't make it sound especially dangerous. It reads in part: "This is the easy beginner run on the Poudre. There are two only two rapids (III), with swift moving class II in between. The first rapid is between the put-in and the bridge. The second rapid, Mad Dog Rapid, is after the bridge when the river takes a hard right turn." But in this case, the section proved deadly.

Cut to 10:25 a.m. on the 27th, when the Larimer County Sheriff's Office received reports of a rafting accident near the same Ouzel picnic spot close to where Alania-Canto and Terrel-Pena died three years ago. Upon their arrival, they learned that a total of seven people had been riding in a raft operated by the Rocky Mountain Adventures firm when the craft flipped. Among those who entered the water was a 64-year-old man from Severance, who was unresponsive when he was pulled from the river even though he, like the others with him, had been wearing a helmet and a personal flotation device. The raft's guide immediately started CPR, but the man didn't respond to these efforts and was subsequently pronounced dead at an area hospital.

On Facebook, the Poudre Fire Authority, one of the agencies that took part in the rescue effort, summed up the incident like so: "Our deepest condolences go out the man's family and friends. This is a somber reminder of the power of the river."

Update: A few hours after the original publication of this post, the Chaffee County Sheriff's Office announced another rafting death that took place on June 27. The waterway involved was the Arkansas River, where this year's first rafting fatality took place.

At 2:27 p.m. on the 27th, the CCSO notes, the county's communications center was contacted in regard to a thus-far-unidentified man who'd fallen from a raft during a private excursion through the Browns Canyon section of the river. The rapids involved are known as Widow Maker.

When emergency crews arrived, CPR was already being administered to the man, but he didn't respond to revival efforts. He was subsequently pronounced dead at the scene.

Counting the three latest fatalities described above, there have been five deaths on Colorado waterways so far this season.
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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts